Chinese livestream queen Viya has issued a public apology for selling a product in collaboration with a counterfeit Supreme brand, marking the latest dispute related to false advertising in China’s highly profitable livestreaming industry.
Viya, who has attracted more than 79 million followers on e-commerce platform Taobao Live, sparked controversy during a livestream session on May 14 when she peddled a 198 yuan ($31) portable neck fan produced in a crossover between famed American streetwear brand Supreme and Guzi, a little-known Chinese brand. By the end of the night, Viya managed to sell more than 20,000 units of the product, according to Xiaohulu, a data company that monitors livestream transactions.
However, net users immediately raised questions about the authenticity of the collab, and of the product itself.
“First of all, Guzi is a little known Chinese brand, and Supreme has never agreed to collaborate with any Chinese brands in its history. Even if Supreme has agreed to a crossover, the product would never have been priced at only 198 yuan,” fashion blogger Abestyle said in a Weibo post that later went viral. A check on Guzi’s official Weibo shows it has only 122 followers.
As it turned out, the product was a Supreme rip-off. The fake legal brand was registered by a company called Sichuan Supu Ruipin (四川速普锐品牌管理有限责任公司), which exploited a legal loophole by filing a trademark application in China for the brand’s name and logo, making them so-called “legal fakes” – similar to Supreme Italia and Supreme Spain.
Sichuan Supu Ruipin’s website was also listed as “supremeusa.com”, whereas the real Supreme is housed under “supremenewyork.com”.
On Saturday, both Guzi and Viya’s Hangzhou-based company Qianxun Group issued statements apologizing for the mix up and offered full refunds for customers. The statements also added that all of the wearable fans have been removed from e-commerce marketplaces.
“I am truly ashamed and I sincerely apologize to everyone. This trademark dispute is a lesson that my team and I will always remember, and we will not shirk our responsibility in this incident,” 34-year-old Viya said in a Weibo post to her 18 million followers.
Despite its huge following in China, Supreme does not operate any physical stores or official online outlets in the country, resulting in a large quantity of counterfeit products on e-commerce platforms.
Viya, who has frequently set livestream viewing records, boasts a rigorous filtering process to ensure products are authentic. In October 2020, she set a record by amassing $49.7 million in sales during a single day, while average audience views of her daily shopping livestreams have reached 37 million.
China’s livestream shopping sector expanded by 121% in 2020 compared with the previous year, and reached a market size of 961 billion yuan, according to data from iiMedia Research.
However, the rising industry has been riddled with misleading advertising practices, substandard products and sales data fabrication, prompting government agencies to issue regulation to curb illegal activities and violations.
In December, high profile livestreamer Xin Ba was fined 900,000 yuan ($138,000) for selling counterfeit bird’s-nest soup, which was proven to contain none of the promised nutritional value or proteins and was nothing but “a mix of syrup and water.”
In the same month, tech founder and livestreamer Luo Yonghao apologized for selling wool cardigans branded as Pierre Cardin which were later found to be fake.
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) published a set of draft regulations that would require livestreamers to carry out real-name identification on the internet platforms they use. The platforms will in turn be required to submit regular reports to local authorities.
Operators and marketing personnel of livestreaming platforms have also been banned from behavior such as promoting pyramid schemes, bad social habits or falsifying livestreaming e-commerce data such as their number of followers, views and likes.